Aquaculture Market Study

Rainbow trout.
Image credit: Piotr Pakula/WiP-Studio

The Aquaculture Market Study is a three-year (2020-2023), $250,000 project led by the University of Minnesota Sea Grant program that was created to determine the potential for a sustainable food-fish aquaculture industry in Minnesota.

“Potential food-fish farmers planning to enter the industry are interested in credible data that will help them decide which production strategies and species are best suited for profitability,” said Amy Schrank, project lead and University of Minnesota Sea Grant fisheries and aquaculture extension educator. “Producers will need this information to apply for loans from banks and lending institutions.”

Food-fish or fish for human consumption is a relatively new and modest aquaculture industry in Minnesota and includes seafood such as shrimp and other forms of shellfish in addition to fish.

Expand all

What is aquaculture?

Aquaculture is the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of fish, shellfish, algae, and other organisms in all types of water environments. 

What is a market study?

A market study helps to identify and analyze information about target markets and customers for a particular product. The products in this project are farm-raised fish, which are aquaculture products.

Project description

Why? Interest in food-fish aquaculture is growing in Minnesota and the Great Lakes region because consumers want to purchase local foods and are concerned about food security. The increase in worldwide demand for protein and decrease in stocks of wild-caught fish are also driving interest in food-fish aquaculture. The project team will assess Minnesota’s current food-fish supply through detailed interviews with food-fish farmers and distributors. The team will also work with farmers to determine production costs of various fish species grown in Minnesota.

Barriers? A major barrier to development of aquaculture businesses in Minnesota is a better understanding of potential markets and market-price targets for locally produced fish. Specifically, potential growers are interested in credible data that can help them decide which production strategies and species are best suited for profitable production.

State regulatory agencies. Minnesota’s regulatory and management agencies are interested in being prepared for the development of new and diverse forms of aquaculture at all operational scales.

What do we plan to do? To determine the viability of a sustainable aquaculture industry in Minnesota, we plan to:

  1. Analyze consumer knowledge, preference, and willingness to pay for aquaculture products;
  2. Assess the current food fish supply to determine what production systems and species will be most profitable for producers and identify market opportunities;
  3. Provide clear recommendations to both the aquaculture industry and policymakers through a robust outreach program based on our results, and
  4. Contribute to workforce development in U.S. aquaculture by training a graduate student. By addressing critical gaps in economic and market knowledge, our project will help determine the potential for expansion of a sustainable aquaculture industry in Minnesota and the Great Lakes region and contribute to job creation, healthy food production, and the growth of local businesses.

Who will use this information?  “The information from these assessments will be coupled with consumer demand data to identify price points so that profit margins can be estimated for the Minnesota food-fish industry,” said Don Schreiner, University of Minnesota Sea Grant fisheries specialist and project member. “This information will be important to determine if Minnesota-grown fish can compete successfully with fish grown out of state.”

Project activities:

  • Graduate student, Eric Honebrink, was hired in 2021, to work on Minnesota Sea Grant's Aquaculture Market Study project as part of his Master’s thesis. Dr. Hikaru Peterson from the Applied Economics Department at the University of Minnesota was Eric's major advisor. In 2021, Eric started an ongoing literature review and began drafting a consumer survey to assess the potential for a food fish market in Minnesota.
  • In 2021, Minnesota Sea Grant staff created a market study advisory group composed of nine people from the aquaculture industry and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. The first market study advisory group meeting was convened on December 17, 2021, and input was received about what information is needed from the market study. A second advisory group meeting was scheduled for late spring/early summer of 2022 to review the consumer survey and discuss plans to distribute the survey at the Minnesota State Fair in late summer 2022.

Why Minnesota Sea Grant?

The Aquaculture Market Study project supports Sea Grant's mission to enhance the practical use and conservation of coastal, marine and Great Lakes resources in order to create a sustainable economy and environment. Specifically, this project supports our national and state focus area of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.

What have we done lately?

  • During the summer and fall of 2022 the market study project team continued to hold monthly planning meetings with project partners, Dr. Hikaru Peterson from the Applied Economics Department at the University of Minnesota and a new graduate student on the project, Kristi Getschel, who joined in November 2022, after the previous graduate student left due to unforeseen circumstances.
  • In fall 2022, an extensive literature review was completed and a number of tools used to conduct consumer and producer surveys have been or are presently being developed.
  • In December of 2022, the project team met with the market study advisory group to update them and receive input on the market study project.
  • A major accomplishment during this period was the design, implementation and preliminary evaluation of a consumer survey that the project team distributed at the University of Minnesota “Driven to Discover” facility at the Minnesota State Fair in late August 2022. This allowed the project team to engage with consumers where more in-depth information on consumer attitudes about aquaculture was gained using the survey as a starting point.
    • The Minnesota State Fair survey was distributed during two half day periods, to over 200 consumers with useful data being received from 183 participants. Preliminary data analysis has occurred and has been presented to the market study advisory group.
  • In fall 2022, Dr. Peterson used the market study as a class project in her economics class and as a result the class developed their own consumer survey that was sent to 300 participants for feedback. The results of the class survey are presently being analyzed and a final report is in preparation.
  • The results and responses from both the Minnesota State Fair and class project surveys will be used to develop the statewide formal consumer survey that will be distributed during the winter months of 2023.

Participants & audience

The Aquaculture Market Study project seeks to serve aquaculture farmers in Minnesota.  

Funding

Minnesota Sea Grant’s project “Determining Market Potential for Food-Fish Aquaculture in Minnesota” is funded through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s competition “Addressing Economic and Market Needs of the U.S. Aquaculture Industry,” federal funding opportunity number NOAA-OAR-SG-2020-2006331.


Program Staff

Blond woman with mountains in the background
Extension Program Leader (2023); Fisheries and Aquaculture Extension Educator
Don Schreiner headshot
Fisheries Specialist (2014-present)
Communication Manager

Partners

  • University of Minnesota, Department of Applied Economics, Academic Institution (College and University)